Refugee Orientation: Social Services

August 23, 2016

Newly arrived refugees often start their new lives in the United States with low-wage, entry-level jobs, settling into apartments they can barely afford, and without to social and cultural networks to help them adjust.

Participants in Catholic Charities’ tenth and final class orienting new residents to life in the U.S. learned about the social and community services and public assistance available to residents who struggle to adjust financially, physically, socially or mentally.

New residents learn about social services at a cultural orientation class for refugees

Facilitator Zadok Taylor, of People-Places-Things explained what kind of benefit they can receive from government program and community services.

There are many culturally specific community centers in the region for people to go for help and also to begin building a social network. And Portland area parks are a welcoming place for refugee families to explore

Resettlement staff help new arrivals apply for government benefits, and some of those extend beyond the initial resettlement period for people who continue to make very little money, including Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through Department of Human Services. The program gives recipients an Electronic Benefit Transfer card that looks like a debit card, that a recipient can use to buy food. They can also receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families cash assistance if they don’t have any income.

Taylor passed out a copy of a local resource guide published by Street Roots. If they need anything, he said, they can look inside the book to see where they should go. People can also call a resource hotline by dialing 2-1-1, and telling the operator which language they prefer to speak. The operator will contact an interpreter to help.  That service is free.

If someone don’t don’t have enough food or clothing for their family, they can visit a local Food Bank, where they can get these things for free.

Portland Police officer Matt Tobey came to tell the newcomers about the Sunshine Division, one of the food bank program where people can get food and clothing. Anyone is welcome there, he said. The first time, they just need to bring is some form of Identification.

He passed out his business card to each family, and encouraged them to reach out of they needed help.  

One surprising service that local police offer, he said, is food deliveries. People can also call non-emergency police number if there’s no way for them to get the food by themselves. When they call, the police will bring food box to their house,  for free, no questions asked.

“I’ve been here for only two weeks, so I don’t really have time to explore this place,” said Ahmed Selwemdawood, a man from Iraq who arrived in July. “By attending this class, I learned about different kind of services we can get and explore different areas which is really helpful.”